Lights, Camera...Action!

Bowood House has glamour in spades. As well as being home to the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, the glorious estate has been host to a number of celebrities thanks to its popularity as a filming location for hit productions such as Poldark, Sanditon, and the recent Downtown Abbey movie. We take a look behind the scenes with our Events and Filming Manager, Amy Nutland.

Tell us about your role at Bowood....

I co-ordinate all external events held on the Bowood Estate: attracting events and film shoots and then ensuring all goes to plan at this magical location. Be it a creative workshop in the Gardeners’ Bothy, an open-air concert, or filming for a costume drama, each project has its own very specific requirements that must be properly anticipated and overseen. Much rides, too, on developing strong bonds with event organisers, film scouts, and production teams. Being among an audience of 6,000 having an unforgettable time at the Classic Ibiza concert or spotting Bowood in the recent Downton Abbey film rounds are real high points for me.

What features are identifiable on screen as being at Bowood?

In the popular BBC TV’s Poldark, Bowood’s ‘Capability’ Brown parkland was cast as “Hyde Park”, with Ross Poldark’s famous pistols-at-dawn lakeside duel (Series 4, 2018) as a stand-out scene. The lake and the Doric temple – on the opposite bank – signal Bowood to many.

It was by the temple that Demelza agreed to keep Geoffrey Charles Poldark and Cecily Hanson’s romance secret (Series 5). The temple and lake seem to be the “goto” places for secret romancing!

In ITV’s 2019 series,  Sanditon, Georgiana Lambe’s illicit day-out with Otis Molyneux (Sanditon, Episode 4) begins by the temple ahead of the proposal as they row across the lake. On bended knee, in front of the cascade, Lord Babington then proposes to Esther Denham (Sanditon, Episode 5).

Photo credit: Mammoth Screen Limited.

What makes Bowood so well suited as a film location?

As well as the highly picturesque, expansive vistas we have masses of further space for large-scale film units – with their numerous trailers, power generators, car parking, and so forth – to be accessible yet well out of sight. Sanditon’s regatta – with a crowd of spectators, tented pavilions, bandstand, and four boats on the lake – hints at the scale of the behind-the-scenes operation.

Bowood’s positioning between London and Bristol is another important advantage.
Bristol is home to The Bottle Yard Studios – the largest dedicated film and TV studio facility in the West of England – and Bowood is just down the road from the popular film locations of Lacock and Castle Combe.

Photo credit: Red Planet Pictures


Tell us more about 2019's Downton Abbey movie.

Carson is first seen in the new film, pottering in his garden. Lady Mary then comes to visit him in his cottage to lure him out of retirement. These scenes were filmed outside and within one of the Bowood Estate cottages.

The stonework and mullioned windows, typical of cottages on the Estate, are the architectural details that helped clinch Bowood’s first feature film foray.

Photo credit: Focus Features.

What happens before the cameras start to roll?

Usually, an enquiry is received from a location scout around a simple brief and a list of criteria to satisfy. For example, Do you have woodland areas? A lake? A temple?

With boxes ticked, a number of recces follow. I will show the scout around Bowood ahead of the producer/director visiting to check the setting meets their visualisation and whether seasonal aspects
will be consistent with the plot.

When it’s time for the technical recce, other crew members will arrive. If everything stacks up as required, the filming schedule is then finalised.

Do visitors to the house and gardens see the filming happen?

The estate’s size means that a shoot can be provided with a dedicated area. Visitors may well notice something in the distance and wonder what it’s all about but if the filming is being kept a secret they won’t be able to get close enough for any plot spoilers!

Photo credit: Red Planet Pictures

Actors must love filming at Bowood?

Absolutely – and it’s been fun to see a number in period costume sitting on benches in the Terrace gardens brushing up on their lines. In addition to the main characters, there might be 60 or so extras on set. And then there are the animals. Four of the horses used when Poldark filmed at Bowood were real pros, having been theatrically trained and having already appeared in Peaky Blinders and Victoria.
The horses go through make-up just as human characters do!

Photo credit: Mammoth Screen Limited.

One final question – who would you choose as your ideal picnic companion at Bowood: Ross Poldark, Sidney Parker or Mr Carson?

Mr Carson, of course! I am sure he would keep the Champagne well-chilled and my glass properly topped-up!


To find out more about filming at Bowood House & Gardens, visit our website here or contact Amy directly: